DNA to Nab Illegal Fishers

A new SNP assay can determine the geographical origin of commonly overexploited fish species.

By | May 24, 2012

Flickr, quinet

FLICKR, QUINET

A new genetic assay will soon help the European fish industry determine the geographical origin of fish that are stocking the supermarkets. Developed by researchers associated with FishPopTrace, an international consortium that monitors the illegal fish trade, the assay can distinguish between different populations of cod, hake, herring, and sole by scanning for single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) signatures unique to groups of fish. In a trial of the assay, published earlier this week in Nature Communications, researchers were able to distinguish between legal and protected populations of fish with 93 to 100 percent accuracy.

“This is a tremendous breakthrough,” Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at the international advocacy group Oceana, told ScienceNOW. “These are critical tools in our fight against illegal fishing and mislabeling and enable us to put some teeth into our fisheries laws and eco-certifications.”

The United Kingdom will be employing the new tool in the near future in a pilot study designed to vet the authenticity of fish origin labels.

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